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UK 'does not support' referendum in northern Iraq

UK DOES NOT SUPPORT REFERENDUM IN NORTHERN IRAQ

The U.K. "does not support" the "aspiration" of northern Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to hold a controversial referendum on independence from Baghdad, the Foreign Office said Saturday.

Urging new talks between Iraq's central Baghdad government and the KRG, the office in a statement said the referendum would risk stability in the region.

"The U.K. does not support the KRG's aspiration to hold a referendum on 25 September," it said.

"The referendum risks increasing instability in the region when the focus should be on defeating Daesh."

The Foreign Office instead urged "new talks between… Erbil and Baghdad".

"Talks should be without preconditions, time limit, address all the issues of dispute between the two parties, and be backed by the international community," the statement added.

It also called on the regional government "to seize this opportunity and to enter into serious negotiations with Baghdad".

KRG President Masoud Barzani said Thursday he could consider an offer to delay the vote.

The non-binding referendum is planned to see residents in provinces controlled by the KRG vote on independence from Baghdad on Sept. 25.

The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is among the contested areas that the vote is planned to take in.

The Iraqi government believes that holding the referendum would violate the terms of the country's constitution.

Turkey, too, rejects it, saying the region's stability depends on the unity of Iraq and the maintenance of its territorial integrity.

The U.S. also on Friday strongly urged northern Iraq's KRG to call off the controversial referendum.

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